, Volume 339, Issue 1, pp 31-46
Date: 14 Jul 2009

Syndecans as receptors and organizers of the extracellular matrix

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Syndecans are type I transmembrane proteins having a core protein modified with glycosaminoglycan chains, most commonly heparan sulphate. They are an ancient group of molecules, present in invertebrates and vertebrates. Among the plethora of molecules that can interact with heparan sulphate, the collagens and glycoproteins of the extracellular matrix are prominent. Frequently, they do so in conjunction with other receptors, most notably the integrins. For this reason, they are often referred to as “co-receptors”. However, just as with integrins, syndecans can interact with actin-associated proteins and signalling molecules, such as protein kinases. Some aspects of syndecan signalling are understood but much remains to be learned. The functions of syndecans in regulating cell adhesion and extracellular matrix assembly are described here. Evidence from null mice suggests that syndecans have roles in postnatal tissue repair, inflammation and tumour progression. Developmental deficits in lower vertebrates in which syndecans are eliminated are also informative and suggest that, in mammals, redundancy is a key issue.

Xiaojie Xian and Sandeep Gopal contributed equally to this work.
The authors are supported by the Danish National Research Foundation, the Danish Medical Research Council, Vilhelm Pedersen Fonden, Haensch Fonden, Mizutani Foundation for Glycoscience, Grosserer Ernst Fischers mindelegat and the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen. S.G. is supported by the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Molecular Mechanisms of Disease PhD programme at the University of Copenhagen.